The most amazing thing about the dislocated shoulder injury that Turkey’s Enes Kanter suffered last night in the Utah Jazz’ win against the Phoenix Suns last night wasn’t the way TV cameras gave the audience such a prolonged view of the visibly excruciating damage or even the manner in which the Jazzmen held on short-handed (or -armed) for the win.
Nope: Most surprising of all, rather, was the Turkish tough guy’s reaction, i.e. To pick himself off the floor and walk off court himself. Can you imagine this reaction from, say, Luke Ridnour? And what exactly is the big man’s threshhold for pain?
BiE likes to write up this particular roundup at year’s end for a couple of reasons: Firstly as a thank you to the readers who check out BallinEurope however frequently; like they say in sports, this website wouldn’t exist without the audience.
Secondly, a look back at which BallinEurope stories drew the most attention provides a nice microcosm of what was most of the minds of European basketball. Yes, national heroes playing in the NBA still reign supreme, but international tournaments happily still get ample due here on The Continent.
So without further ado, here are the stories that you, the readers, decided were the true headline-grabbers in 2012.
1. Splitter opines Adelman key to Rubio’s success; Ginobili says “impressive”
When Ricky Rubio finally eked his way into the Timberwolves’ starting lineup, the results were immediate and positive. Of course, those of us who’ve been following The Human YouTube Highlight Clip since his days as the youngest-ever player for Barcelona could sit back and say “I told you so” – like Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili did.
BallinEurope will be celebrating NBA Opening Day with lots of stuff centered on the big league; firstly, BiE takes stock of Continental ballers in the ‘States.
Taking a look at this year’s roundup, we note that 53 Europeans have been named to NBA clubs’ 15-man roster, just beating the pace of the 52 listed in 2010-11. (BiE didn’t take the tally for last season because, you know, things were kinda confusing during the lockout and all…)
And quite a few teams have seriously European-tinted rosters: Five teams go into the 2012-13 NBA season with four Continental players – and of these 20 players, perhaps only Sasha Pavlovic and Evan Fournier are marginalized at the lower end of the 15-man rosters. If one includes Ty Lawson as an honorary Lithuanian (for at least one more season), the Denver Nuggets could put an all-Euro squad on the floor with Lawson heading up an admittedly odd lineup of Fournier, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov.
BallinEurope’s been a big fan of Enes Kanter since his youth ball days, but his performance in Sunday’s exhibition game for the Utah Jazz may steal away the no. 1 spot on the BiE adoration chart from Ricky Rubio.
Nah, BiE’s not talking about what the big Turk did in the open-scrimmage game in Salt Lake City, but rather his pregame routine in the semi-traditional “rookie dance face off.” While not a rookie at all, actually, Kanter just had to take it open himself to show Kevin Murphy and then Alec Burks how it’s done … well, somewhere on the planet, perhaps…
Not to fan the flames of debate here at BallinEurope or anything … a few particularly incendiary comments made by former Limoges/Asvel Villeurbanne head coach and current Team Turkey technical coordinator Bogdan Tanjevic were first reported on Italy-based La Gazzetta dello Sport and subsequently picked up by Sportando and France-based Passion Basket, among others. We can easily surmise that Tanjevic won’t be offered a job by Utah Jazz Basketball Inc. any time soon…
On Enes Kanter not playing on the national team in 2012, Tanjevic said that “He is a great talent and we miss him a lot. He decided not to join us but honestly, he needs us more than we need him. He has not played or trained with us in the past three years. I [also] had to replace [Kerem] Gonlum, who was on holiday with his family. Without Kanter, it will be a little more difficult but I think we’ll be able to get into EuroBasket 2013.”
But Tanjevic also sees a problem with dependence on NBA stars at all – namely, the coaches. Was he surprised when Kanter declined to play with Team Turkey? “I’m not surprised at all … America is the perfect place to lose your head. Firstly, because the coaches [there] do not understand. In the NBA, there are just three or four coaches who have been there for 100 years, making billions and winning trophies. Others are weak. Including [Utah Jazz head coach] Tyrone Corbin…
While so much attention is paid to the upcoming Olympics and warm-up games, a number of European players have quietly gone about their business in the NBA Summer Leagues in Vegas and Orlando. BallinEurope’s man in the U.K., Sam Chadwick, takes a look at an extended roster’s worth of European ballers’ performances in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer games.
Alexis Ajinca, San Antonia Spurs (2.8 ppg, 50% FG, 2.8 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg in four Las Vegas games)
Ajinca is in a similar position to Ryan Richards: Both played summer league for the Spurs and turned in eerily similar numbers. However, Alexis did manage to hit at least 50% of his shots while also being a slight factor on defence (0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks) in his very low 10 minutes per game. Ajinca’s hopes for an NBA spot, like Richards’, look like a long shot and I expect him to return to France for the coming season. Although a tall and talented big man always seem to earn a roster spot, Alexis just has not developed the way teams hoped he would when he was selected 20th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft.
How Andrei Kirilenko handles reporters – just kidding
Amid a crowd of athletes well-versed in jockspeak, Andrei Kirilenko is a breath of fresh air. Though no controversy-stirrer on the Charles Barkley level (and who is, really, aside from Sir Charles himself), Kirilenko is personable, patient, friendly and fluent in two languages in the interview milieu.
Kirilenko arrived late to “open media” session after yesterday’s CSKA Moscow practice and quickly drew a crowd for the seven or so minutes he spoke to reporters in advance of the Red Army’s title quest tonight.
On the other side of the floor tonight will be Dusan Ivkovic, a man quite familiar with Kirilenko stretching back to the days when AK-47 was not quite the automatic weapon he is today. When asked who wins the battle between player and coach, Kirilenko deferred a bit, stating that “He knows me and Milos [Teodosic], so we won’t surprise him.”
When it was pointed that CSKA had beaten Olympiacos twice this season already, Kirlenko refused to acknowledge his side’s standing as heavy favorites in tonight’s game. “Look at Panathinaikos. We beat them twice this season, too. It doesn’t mean anything” in what is “not a playoff series in which you have a chance to have a mistake.”
Did Kirilenko have expectations going into this season after jumping from the NBA? Would anything less have been a disappointment? Well, said Andrei, “I’m very happy with this season, no matter how the final goes … I’m already happy with this season, because I had a great chance to play for the Russian fans. I had a great chance to play in front of a lot of my friends [and] family. It was a great season; we have a great team.”
Along similar lines, Kirilenko stated only on the inevitable NBA/Euroleague comparison question simply that “It’s a different game” – Perhaps he’s been reading BallinEurope and didn’t seek to start another comment war – and as for playing with the Utah Jazz as opposed to CSKA Moscow, “It’s different. It’s hard to compare. I played 10 years for Utah and I know everyone in that organization … it’s like a second home in the ‘States, but here you get back to the team where you started your career and you still recognize the guy who met you at the train station when you were 19 years old…”
In the interests of complete transparency – hey, somebody in Hungary should aspire to such – BallinEurope today presents the outcome of a heavy Euroleague basketball-watching habit plus several hours of intense thought: Namely, the five names that went onto BiE’s media representative’s ballot for 2011-12 Euroleague MVP.
Since there’s no way the chosen quintet will make anybody completely happy – even though surely the top seven or eight (depending how you feel about certain American imports in Lithuania) individual performances in the 2011-12 ‘League would surely be agreed upon by the great majority of Euroleague fans – BiE will explain the thought process behind the vote and show the initial list of 25 from which the five players receiving points were winnowed. (Bonus: YouTube clips, natch.)
In backwards order, then…
• Toughest omissions – Henry Domercant, Erazem Lorbek and Sonny Weems. Each was so emblematic of their teams in 2011-12, with Domercant and Weems veritably carrying their clubs at times to unexpected Euroleague success. Unics Kazan got attention early in the regular season with a few monster performances by Domercant – including the amazing 30-point, seven-rebound show against Montepaschi Siena in the opener – but Bad Henry actually became more consistent and more well-integrated into the Kazan offense as the team’s season progressed.
Weems kept the overachieving Zalgiris Kaunas afloat – and more – after Ty Lawson returned to the NBA post-lockout, plus gets bonus points for performing among the more YouTubable in European ball. Keeping Weems off the ballot were a couple of off-games in the Top 16 round which may have ultimately kept the Greens out of the semifinal round – and the man did turn over the ball the second-most frequently in the EL, too…
Most notable about FC Barcelona – even more so than in previous years of title glory – is the team’s incredible defenses. Lorbek has controlled the paint on D to make the Blaugrana’s zone traps even more effective and together with Pete Mickael has been triggering fast breaks off the boards while playing in all 19 Euroleague games. Plus, what if someone had told you at season’s beginning that the leading scorer for 2011-12 on Juan Carlos Navarro’s team would be the big Slovenian?
Tough to leave off this expectation-scattering trio, one and all…
• 5. Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
After not exactly fitting into the Boston Celtics after an ill-advised trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder late in 2010-11 and reading the writing on the wall vis-à-vis the player lockout, Krstic may have been the first NBA refugee headliner to sign in Europe. And whoa, has the investment paid off for CSKA Moscow. In Krstic, the Red Army has the ‘League’s no. 1 in accumulated performance index rating, no. 2 in average PIR and no. 5 in points scored – with a shooting percentage of just under 64% overall. A big man among the big men at Moscow, Krstic had to get on the ballot.
• 4. Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
• 3. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
• 2. Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
BiE swears that with each coming year, the playmaking guard becomes even more disproportionately important to European and/or international success. Case in point, these three guys in 2011-12; first, the statistical highlights for each:
McCalebb – 16.9 points per game on 61.3% overall shooting, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 17.29 average PIR
Diamantidis – 11.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 17.00 PIR
Spanoulis – 16.5 ppg on 49.7% overall shooting, 3.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.37 PIR
Bear in mind all are in the top five in average index rating behind a couple of dudes on CSKA Moscow and that none of three have missed a single game for their teams – now who do you choose? The reputed “fastest man in Europe” and Euroleague top scorer who can lead break after break though doesn’t have the best eye for the open teammate (Gee that’s kinda 2003-04 Kobesque)…
…or the more-than-sum-of-parts guy who just happened to chase last year’s EL MVP bid by leading the league in assists and three-pointers made plus added priceless veteran leadership of a three-time champion…
…or do you go with BiE’s selection from among the three, i.e. the “rock in the middle of that roster … on whom all the Reds could rely” with a career year on the only surprise in the Euroleague Final Four?
• 1. While deciding among the 2 through 4 and 5 through off-ballot positions was difficult, the top choice was the opposite. Yes, BallinEurope went for that most polarizing (only the basketball gods know why) player of 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow.
Forget what you may think about his consistent-if-not-mindblowing tenure with the Utah Jazz and the virtual all-star squad CSKA management set him up with in the 2011 offseason: The AK-47 has had a monster year. His average PIR of 24.07 per game played is more than 19% better than the nearest competitor (Krstic) – such a mark is currently the 15th best for a single season in the modern era and would be the highest by any player advancing past the regular season since Anthony Parker for Maccabi back in 2004-05. And while he’s “only” ranking seventh in ppg at 17.0, he’s tops in rebounds and blocks plus no. 2 in steals, making him the sole player even close to the top 10 in those four statistical categories.
Yes, Kirilenko missed five Euroleague games and yes, CSKA went 5-0 in that run, but BiE dares say that no single player in the 2011-12 EL became the center of focus every minute he’s on the floor the way that this season’s prospective MVP did – four player-of-the-week awards should prove it.
This season, Kirilenko rules. Let the comments begin.
The top 25 players, as BiE sees it for 2011-12, were the following.
Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
Henry Domercant, Unics Kazan
Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona
Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow
Jaycee Carroll, Real Madrid
Devin Smith, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Omar Cook, Emporio Armani Milano
Marcelinho Huertas, FC Barcelona
Andrei Kirilenko, CSKA Moscow
Sonny Weems, Zalgiris Kaunas
Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid
Mike Batiste, Panathinaikos
Marko Banic, Gescrap Bilbao Basket
Viktor Khryapa, CSKA Moscow
Bojan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce Ulker
Pete Mickael, FC Barcelona
Richard Hendrix, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Felipe Reyes, Real Madrid
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
Erazem Lorbek, FC Barcelona
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Giorgi Shermadini, Bennet Cantu
Luka Zoric, Unicaja Malaga
In case you wanted the definitive answer to whether Andrei Kirilenko will be returning to the NBA for next season after his prospective Euroleague MVP year with CSKA Moscow, well, you’ll have to wait just a bit longer.
Last week, Kirilenko made a few brief remarks to Greece-based Eurohoops.net; within this interview, the AK states that “I think next year I’m going to move back to the NBA,” adding that “I feel that I have a couple more years of great, great basketball in me and I think the NBA is still the best at this moment.”